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2021 Niner JET 9 RDO 4-Star Bike

Vital Rating: (Outstanding)
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Niner JET 9 RDO 4-Star XT 12-Speed (Green)
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First Ride - 2021 Niner JET 9 RDO

As impressive on the climbs, as it is on the downhills, Niner's new JET makes a strong first impression.

Rating: Vital Review
First Ride - 2021 Niner JET 9 RDO

Less than a month ago we wrapped up our test with the Niner WFO, a big mountain brawler. In a move that is quite indicative of 2021, we literally handed over our WFO and took possession of the new Jet at the same time. While the WFO had us headed for big rocks and high-speeds, were were quite excited to get our mitts on this new JET 9. Short-travel 29ers with trail bike geometry are infiltrating more brand's lineups and many riders are finding they are a great intersection of rowdy and efficiency. Let's dig into how the new Jet stacks up.

Strengths

  • CVA suspension design has a planted feel
  • Balanced reach to chainstay length as tested
  • FOX Suspension is supportive and ready for aggressive riding
  • Updated, descent-focused geometry still climbs incredibly well

Weaknesses

  • Deore XT brake pad cooling fins rattle on caliper
  • Rear axle removable handle rattles
  • 30-pound weight lessens snappy, XC bike characteristics

Highlights

  • RDO full carbon frame
  • 29-inch wheels
  • 120mm (4.7-inches) of rear wheel travel // 130mm (5.1-inches) fork travel
  • CVA suspension design
  • 165x45 Trunnion shock
  • Fully guided internal cable routing
  • Lifetime frame warranty
  • Universal derailleur hanger
  • Enduro Black Oxide pivot bearings
  • 73mm threaded bottom bracket with ISCG05 mounts
  • Boost 148 rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured weight (size large, no pedals): 30 pounds (13.6kg)
  • MSRP $6,190 USD

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Niner has given the JET 9 a much greater update than what may be evident at first glance. Digging into the geometry charts reveals a more modern trail ripper. Longer, lower, slacker, shorter, it is all there in mild to moderate doses. Niner's CVA suspension gets a new leverage curve as well. Available in five builds, every model of the Jet uses the same RDO carbon frame with guided, internal routing, Enduro bearings, and a lifetime warranty.

Geometry

In an arms race to make the latest cross country bikes more trail-ready, Niner has updated the JET in every predictable way. The biggest change comes in the reach measurement. Our large test bike has a 475mm reach, growing 28mm (low setting) over the prior iteration The head angle slackens just a touch to 66-degrees. Niner tucked the rear wheel in 3mm and now has a 432mm chainstay length across all sizes. The seat tube angle steepens by two degrees to 75.5-degrees.

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The JET 9 makes use of a flip chip in the seatstay. We tested our JET in the low setting. Putting it in high will steepen the head and seat angles by .5-degrees as well as raise the bottom bracket by 8mm. Other numbers affected are chainstay (-2mm) and reach (+6mm). In the high position, Niner is offering numbers that are not so outlandish as to make the JET lose its XC chops, but would seem to open up the fun factor dramatically. We loved being able to use the flip chip to open the door to some more rowdy characteristics though.

The Lineup

Niner offers the JET 9 in five different built options. Every build starts with the same RDO carbon frame. Starting off the line is the 2-Star SX build. For $4,100 riders will get FOX 34 Rhythm fork and FOX Float X Evol rear shock. As the name implies, the drivetrain is SRAM's SX Eagle, but does use a DUB bottom bracket (not Power Spline). Brakes are SRAM Level with 180mm rotors front and back. The wheels are Niner's own and come wrapped in the same Schwalbe 2.6-inch front/2.35-inch rear Nobby Nics as the rest of the line.

2-Star SX - $4,100
3-Star GX - $5,350

Bump up the line to the 3-Star GX for $5,350 and you now get FOX Factory suspension at both ends via a 34 Grip 2 fork and Float X Evol shock. The drivetrain is SRAM's GX Eagle with SRAM G2 brakes. Wheels get a bump to the DT Swiss XM 1900 Spline.

4-Star XT - $6,190

Fans of Shimano drivetrains are in luck with the 4-Star XT build (tested) for $6,190. There's no surprise here with the drivetrain and brakes both being Shimano's XT level goods. Niner did spec the bike with Race Face's Next R carbon cranks and Next R bars to save some weight and add some bling. The wheels get a bump to DT Swiss XM1700 Spline.

Editorial note: Our test bike came with Stan's wheels. This was simply due to supply chain issues and does not reflect any spec changes.

5-Star X01 - $7,700
5-Star X01 AXS - $9,950

Niner's 5-star builds are split into two sub-options. First is the X01 Eagle at $7,700 with G2 RSC brakes and DT Swiss XMC 1501 carbon wheels. At the top of the pecking order is the AXS LTD build for $9,950. On top of the upgrade to AXS Eagle, the build also gets the XX1 Rainbow cassette, G2 Ultimate brakes and DT Swiss's XMC1200 wheels.

Setup

From the first time we tossed a leg over the new JET 9 RDO, we were impressed with how at home our size large frame made us feel. The 28mm growth in reach over the previous iteration left us with a roomy and comfortable rider triangle between saddle, pedals and handlebars. With a slightly longer headtube length than most bikes in this category (125mm) the combination of 130mm fork and 29-inch wheels required no additional headset spacers below the stem to raise handlebars to a comfortable and confident descending height.

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Properly set sag is key while setting up the JET 9 RDO to maximize the CVA suspension platform's awesome anti-squat qualities. At the rocker link pivot is a handy mark on the frame and pivot bolt that, when aligned under rider weight, indicate correct sag amount. At 165-pounds (74.8kg) we pumped 195psi into the DPX2 Performance Elite rear shock. Up front, we added a tad more pressure than recommended for our rider weight to keep the fork stable under big hits, which resulted in 82psi in our Factory 34 fork. For shock adjustment settings, we left compression fairly open as the suspension kinematics did most of the work keeping the bike supple and supported. Shock rebound and fork clickers were then set to our preferred mid-to-open settings to keep the bike lively and recovering at a quick rate (fork settings: low speed compression 10-clicks out, high speed compression 6-clicks out, low speed rebound 8-clicks out, high speed rebound 6-clicks out. Shock settings: rebound 6-clicks out, compression 8-clicks out) To match the dry, sandy and loose-over-hardpack terrain we tested on, we settled on 26psi rear tire pressure and and 24psi front tire pressure.

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On The Trail

All of our ride time on the JET 9 RDO was spent across our Boise, Idaho foothills which provided perfectly appropriate trails matched for the intended use of the bike. With higher temperatures and snow receding, we were able to get a good mix of rocky, tree-swerving trails with plenty of chunder to feel how the JET 9 RDO responds to aggressive riding. We also rode lots of fast, rolling trails with long, arching, loose turns that required plenty of rider input to create speed as well as setting weight into turns to maintain traction. Reaching these summits was no easy feat. Many trails we rode were out-and-backs, giving us plenty of time in the saddle, stomping on the pedals and granny gearing up loose ascents for minutes on end.

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Downhill Performance

With many of the geometry changes on the new JET 9 RDO lending towards improved descending performance, Niner did an awesome job tweaking numbers to elevate the bike's capability once pointing downhill. Having ridden other bikes filling this new category of short travel descending mini-monster trucks, the provided confidence and planted feel of the JET 9 RDO performs above what you’d expect from a 120mm travel bike. We chalk this up to a blend of supportive FOX suspension and the CVA suspension platform's varying leverage rate. The combination kept the bike closely tracking the ground with awesome mid-stroke support and a smooth bottom-out drop off.

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The high leverage rate early in the stroke really allows the JET 9 RDO to maintain crazy-impressive speed over repetitive, small chatter bumps. This does wonders for smoothing out braking bumps or small rock gardens without passing chatter onto the rider - a loved sensation for any flat pedal rippers out there! Further into the travel, noticeable mid-stroke support allowed us to actively pump our weight into the bike and gain speed out of trail undulations without cycling through excessive shock travel. This has been something that is not always true of short travel bikes. Typically we find ourselves adjusting shock settings, relying on added air pressure and open rebound settings to keep from bottoming out with rider input.

This provided a bottomless feel, allowing us to drop our heels and take on trail features with an attack mindset.

Added benefits of this mid-stroke support was the ability to lock into long, arching corners without fear of getting unsettled and pushed off line. At higher speeds, it was impressive how ‘sat’ into the suspension we felt. This provided a bottomless feel, allowing us to drop our heels and take on trail features with an attack mindset. A contributing factor to this feel was having a 130mm fork up front which helped take the edge off harsh hits and opened up potential lines usually not obtainable (comfortably) by a short travel bike. As is only appropriate to really test the abilities of a bike, we did multiple irresponsible hucks to flat which left us shaking our heads at how much support is present at the end of the leverage curve. Again, a blend of always-impressive FOX suspension and the CVA platform's end stroke ramp up that elevates the JET 9 RDO stability to that of a trail bike.

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In an age of longer, slacker, further reach bikes, the JET 9 RDO strikes an enjoyable balance that left us centered in the bike with a nice base from which to take action. While not the longest wheelbase (1211mm, size large) or chainstay length (432mm, size large) we loved how agile the JET 9 RDO remained on tight, technical sections of trail or back to back berms. We admit a few corners were cut inside to slap a berm late, which left us with a smile as we would get launched out the other side each time. The manageable, overall length also allowed for ease of side to side line adjustment and with an appropriate reach (469mm, size large) gave us the cockpit room to maneuver the bike as we pleased.

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Does the JET 9 RDO have any limits while descending? The slight increase in weight does make it marginally more difficult to jump the bike around playfully but only when compared to other descent focused cross country bikes like the Transition Spur. For most, this will be a positive, as weight helps stability when things get spicy on descents. For the gram counters reading this, do be advised this build caters to descent riding over added watts on the climb from saved weight.

Niner made sure the JET 9 RDO maintained its dominance as a weapon on the ascents.

Climbing

Despite descent-focused geometry changes, Niner made sure the JET 9 RDO maintained its dominance as a weapon on the ascents. Much of this can be credited to the CVA suspension design that maximizes anti-squat by using chain tension from pedaling to hold the bike up in its travel (around the 30% sag mark). What this creates at the pedals is an impressively efficient transfer of power without going too far and causing any pedal kickback or funky suspension feel. With the longer and slacker geometry, Niner did steepen the seat tube angle from 74-degrees to 75.5-degrees, maintaining a centered rider position while climbing with more vertical pedal strokes for power transfer.

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On meandering trails where you are spinning the pedals and shifting between a handful of gears, we loved how quick and direct our power input translated to an increase in speed. There is no question the JET 9 RDO pedals like a 120mm travel bike while still providing some give and damping over uphill bumps. While the DPX2 Performance Elite rear shock does have an independent firm pedal lever we preferred to leave things open as the suspension felt plenty firm already. When climbs became lung bursting steep, we found our body weight comfortably centered with no front wheel float. When standing and stomping on the pedals, we again enjoyed plenty of anti-squat that kept power transfer consistent and limited loss of traction. Compared to other bikes in this category, the JET 9 RDO is a competitive climber that despite it’s slightly beefier parts spec and modern geometry, can hold its own against the rest.

Build Kit

This may not be the production-spec, but the DPX2 is a solid performer

FOX Performance Elite DPX2 rear shock

A standout part that transformed what we previously thought a 120mm travel bike could achieve was the FOX Performance Elite DPX2 rear shock. Of course aided by the suspension kinematics of the JET 9 RDO, we found the shock to have a truly bottomless feel that made us forget we were riding a short travel bike. The mid-stroke support was great at maintaining speed and let us aggressively pump into compressions without feeling like a bottom out was ever reached. An upgrade we see applying to some personal short travel bikes of our own!

Editorial note -The specced rear shock is the new FOX Float X Factory. Production units were not available for this test, so a DPX2 was provided.

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Schwalbe Nobby Nic Tires

Tire preference is of course subjective and while the Schwalbe Super Trail casing and Addix Speed Grip compound is completely appropriate for the intended use of the Jet 9 RDO, the Nobby Nic front tire provided a very unpredictable ride experience. With a large gap between center and side nobs, we found ourselves pushing the front wheel on dry, hardpack corners where we typically have no issues finding a level of traction. All up to personal preference, but down the line we would opt for a more dedicated front tire design.

There was once a wrench in there, now removed for silence.

Rear Axle Handle

A nifty feature at first - the rear axle has a removable handle that doubles as a 5mm Allen key. Moments into our first ride and a few bunny hops later we realized the male fitting handle did not fit tight into the axle. We don’t foresee the handle ever backing out completely but the few millimeters of play created excessive noise that rattled through the whole bike. We choose to ride without it for most of our test time as we always have a multitool on hand for trailside wrenching and would prefer a quieter ride.

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Rattly fins

Shimano XT Drivetrain / Brakes

A well-proven drivetrain, we loved the smooth shifting under power and bulletproof construction of the Deore XT shifting. The 4-piston brakes let us drop anchor whenever needed and we are fans of the clean I-SpecEV mounts that create a simple cockpit with brakes, shifters and dropper lever mounting in concert. The one downside and an already well known issue with the Deore XT brakes is the rattling caused by brake pad cooling fins contacting the brake caliper. Nothing a little fuzzy velcro can’t fix - the JET 9 RDO would likely be a silent assassin if it wasn’t for the brakes.

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Durability

Kudos to Niner for putting together a bike that overall is built to handle the abuse it deserves. While there are always lighter, thinner or nicer parts to toss on a bike, the JET 9 RDO hits a nice balance of appropriate build spec that isn't a tank to pedal around. During our test time we had no stand out issues and don’t see anything that will pose a problem for a long time. With fully guided and internally routed cables that are sealed tightly at entry and exit ports via rubber grommets and enduro MAX Black Oxide bearings found at every pivot, the frame is ready to roll for miles to come.

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What's The Bottom Line?

The changes made to the JET 9 RDO go the distance to provide a more stable, planted and descent-hungry short travel machine. The best part is these changes have not come at the cost of giving up comfort or efficiency while climbing. Built around an incredibly capable suspension platform with an appropriate parts list and manageable weight, the JET 9 RDO is truly an enjoyable bike to log long miles in the saddle that doesn't shy away from any descent or trail feature it is presented.

Head to Ninerbikes.com for more information.


About The Reviewer

Jason Schroeder - Age: 26 // Years Riding MTB: 15 // Height: 6' (1.8m) // Weight: 165-pounds (74.8kg)

A once-upon-a-time World Cup downhill racer turned desk jockey, Jason has spent years within the bicycle industry from both sides of the tape.  A fan of all day adventures in the saddle or flowing around a bowl at the skatepark, he doesn't discriminate from any form of two wheel riding.  Originally a SoCal native now residing in Boise, Idaho you can find Jason camped out in his van most weekends at any given trailhead in the greater Pacific NorthWest.

Specifications

Product Niner JET 9 RDO 4-Star Bike
Model Year 2021
Riding Type Trail
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
S, M, L, XL View Geometry
Size S M L XL
Top Tube Length 574, 577 603, 605 631, 634 660, 662
Head Tube Angle 66.5°, 66° 66.5°, 66° 66.5°, 66° 66.5°, 66°
Head Tube Length 95 110 125 140
Seat Tube Angle 76°, 75.5° 76°, 75.5° 76°, 75.5° 76°, 75.5°
Seat Tube Length 376 406 446 496
Bottom Bracket Height (33, 41 drop) (33, 41 drop) (33, 41 drop) (33, 41 drop)
Chainstay Length 430, 432 430, 432 430, 432 430, 432
Wheelbase 1148, 1149 1179, 1180 1210, 1211 1241, 1242
Standover 688, 681 698, 705 727, 734 778, 771
Reach 425, 419 450, 444 475, 469 500, 494
Stack 599, 603 613, 617 626, 631 640, 645
* Additional Info Multiple values for 'High' and 'Low' adjustable geometry positions via flip-chip seatstay pivots
Measurements are in mm unless otherwise noted
Wheel Size 29"
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details RDO (Race Day Optimized) carbon fiber with integrated frame protection
Rear Travel 120mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT X Factory EVOL, 2-position with adjust, Kashima coat, 165x45mm Trunnion
Fork FOX 34 FLOAT Factory GRIP2 EVOL, HSC/LSC/HSR/LSR, Kashima coat, 15mm x 110mm, 44mm offset
Fork Travel 130mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered
Headset ZS44/28.6 | ZS56/40
Handlebar Race Face Next R, 800mm wide, 35mm rise, 35mm clamp
Stem Race Face Turbine R, 40mm, 35mm clamp
Grips Niner Grrrips, lock-on
Brakes Shimano XT M8120, metal pad with fin, 180/180mm MT800 rotors
Brake Levers Shimano XT M8100
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters Shimano XT M8100 12-speed, I-SPEC EV
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur Shimano XT M8100 SGS 12-speed
ISCG Tabs ISCG 05
Chainguide N/A
Cranks Race Face Next R Carbon 12-speed, 170mm (S), 175mm (M/L/XL)
Chainrings 32 tooth
Bottom Bracket Race Face, 73mm BSA threaded
Pedals N/A
Chain Shimano XT M8100 with Quick Link
Cassette Shimano XT M8100, 12-speed, 10-51 tooth
Rims DT Swiss XM 1700 SPLINE wheelset, 30mm
Hubs DT Swiss XM 1700 SPLINE wheelset, centerlock, 15mm x 110mm front, 12mm x 148mm rear
Spokes DT Swiss XM 1700 SPLINE wheelset
Tires Front: Schwalbe Nobby Nic EVO Super Trail, 29"x 2.6"
Rear: Schwalbe Nobby Nic EVO Super Trail, 29"x 2.35"
Saddle Niner Custom Tr with Crn-Ti rails, printed Niner graphic
Seatpost KS LEV Si, 100mm (S), 150mm (M/L/XL)
Seatpost Diameter 30.9mm
Seatpost Clamp 34.9mm single bolt
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 12mm x 148mm Boost
Max. Tire Size 29" x 2.6"
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes, one in front triangle
Colors Magnetic grey, emerald green
Warranty Lifetime
Weight N/A
Miscellaneous - CVA (Constantly Varying Arc) suspension design
- Refined suspension curve for supportive pedaling and bottomless descending
- Smooth, straight full-sleeve internal cable routing
- Double row Enduro MAX Black Oxide rocker link bearings
- Trunnion shock, adding width and stiffness to the frame and linkage
- Forged rocker link with crossmember for stiffness
- Stiff, oversized main frame and compact, 1-piece rear triangle
- Sag indicator on the rocker link pivot
- Oversized lower shock pocket for compatibility with all aftermarket rear shocks
- Adjustable geometry via a flip-chip in seatstay pivots, lowers the bottom bracket by 8mm and slackens the head tube by half a degree
- SRAM UDH derailleur hanger
Price $6,190
More Info

www.ninerbikes.com

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